Most of America and much of the world is celebrating the election of Kamala D. Harris to Vice President.
Vice President-elect and Madam Vice President – MVP fills many “first” boxes that include; Woman, Black, South Asian, Step-mother, from California, born in Oakland, Historically Black college graduate, Black sorority, and so on and so forth.
What always comes first though is the fact that V.P. Harris is a Black woman because in America Blackness is the most important attribute a person has because whiteness requires it to be so.
The “one-drop rule” is alive and has never really gone away. And the one-drop rule goes two ways:
Whiteness demands that Blackness “present” itself; and Black people require Blackness acknowledge itself.
Two different demands and approaches that are both the outcome of hundreds of years of chattel enslavement, generational rape, and the outcome of generational rape: mixed race children.
White America has never interrogated itself about what it means that Black Americans are a range of colors – light and almost white, to brown, to black, and all shades in between.
Our ancestors did not arrive on these shores with the range of black and brown skin modern Black folk now have.
Black Americans got color ranges because white men raped enslaved Black girls and women, and those violent sexual acts produced mixed-race children.
And even once slavery ended, white men could and did continue to rape Black women without fear of legal repercussions, and with the same result as their forefathers and their rape acts – produce mixed-race children.
Faced with lighter skinned babies, white men were forced to confront their offspring and create a space for them in society as long as that space was away from their families. The children were killed, sold to other families, or just ignored and left to be raised by their mother and step-father.
The obvious parentage was explained by the enslavers as the result of the “evil Black girl or woman” who used her oversexed ways as a seductress to take advantage of the innocent and helpless white man.
The babies could not be seen as “white” so in addition to being a slave, the mixed-race children were now called black, colored, mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, negro, negroid and, finally, mixed.
The U.S. Census is one place to look to see all the attempts white men made to identify and categorize what we now call “mixed” and to ensure everyone knew that despite one’s daddy being white, the baby could not claim whiteness. On the census one can read that a distant relative was at one time, mulatto and in a later census the same person is categorized as “negro.” Racial designation in America has always been fluid and that flow has typically flowed away from whiteness as long as there was the presence of Blackness in the person’s history and that history was observable in one’s skin color.
Perhaps the most famous version of this sordid and unscientific nonsense is the story of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Forced by DNA to accept the fact that Mr. Enlightenment not only made babies with Sally Hemings, white Jefferson family members finally accepted Hemings into the Jefferson family but only the fairy-tale version that tells of the “love” between much older and married Thomas and teenager and enslaved girl Hemings.
The Jefferson family and much of white America would rather believe that the enslaved child Sally Hemings “loved” her white enslaver despite the fact he chose not to set her free.
DNA testing has illuminated just how pervasive rape was during and after the institution of slavery ended. Black American’s DNA is filled with the blood of all the European countries and peoples who participated in slavery. And that participation included centuries of raping Black girls and women and creating mixed-race offspring.
To see one’s own DNA identify all the European ancestry is to see rape written into our blood, and to know that none of that blood or DNA can grant us connection to those places or people. And nothing in our European DNA can grant Black Americans relief from America’s oldest institution and its children: racism, systemic racism, modern Jim Crow, police brutality, and second-class citizenship in our own homes.
It is knowledge without power to help, but power that continues to harm us socially and emotionally.
As the country has grown the identification of mixed-race has expanded beyond Black/white, and now includes Black + Hispanic/Latinx, Japanese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Pacific Islander, African, Indian, and others.
Black people welcome all the iterations of Blackness into the community as long as the person acknowleges and respects their Blackness.
We saw it with Barrack Obama. He had been accepted in Chicago but when he went national, the remainder of Black America needed to understand him – specifically his acknowledgement of his Blackness, before wrapping arms around him and propelling him to the presidency. The fact that his wife, the universally beloved Michelle Obama, is a dark skinned Black woman played a significant role in acceptance to Black people in general, but was the key to acceptance of the most important democratic voting block: Black women.
Once Black women vetted candidate Obama, and concluded that he was authentic in his Blackness and true in his love for Michelle, 98% voted for him and propelled him to the White House.
And of course we saw it with Kamala Harris – and even more so since as with everything in America, being a woman is always harder and being a Black woman is harder still.
Though she was born in Oakland, grew up in Berkeley, graduated from a Historically Black College & University – HBCU – Kamala had to answer about her “true” Blackness and her “claim” to be called an African-American since her father was Jamaican.
And Kamala married a Jewish white man, which brought out different type of American bigotry, commonly known as antisemitism.
Kamala’s lived life was as an African-American Black woman and she did not run away from the way society saw her. She embraced it. And she did so without losing her complete identity. Her South Asian heritage remained and remains important to her whole being and has always been quick to acknowledge her whole self in public and when asked.
The delicate racial designation dance can make or break a person with one or both sides of their families. One has to be respectful to both sides, honor both sides, and balance the sometimes conflicting expectations of different racial demands from family and friends.
Kamala has long been under the racial spotlight and she never allowed anyone to force her into their perceived views of who and what she is, and how she should act.
Kamala represents all of who she is with focus, pride, and with honor for both her parent’s ancestry, and her unique East Bay upbringing, her HBCU education, and her understanding that all Black people have in America: No matter what DNA is in our blood, our public American lives are seen first and foremost as “Black.”
Kamala won over Black women after repeated attempts by the left-wing to portray her as “Other, not Black.”
But as with President Obama, Black women voted for her in overwhelming numbers, enough so to drown out the Black men who displayed their misogynoir and love of patriarchy by voting for Trump.
Black and white Americans, and everyone else, will have to come to accept the fact that what we now call mixed-race will be the norm one day and not the exception.
The ascendancy of Obama and Kamala -and many others in all levels of government – are showing us that not only should we accept the inevitable, but we should even now be acknowledging and welcoming the merging of the great divide that has for so long harmed our country and communities.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is of mixed ancestry, is fully embraced by Black, Jamaican, and her South Asian families and cultures, and she should not be asked to choose one over the other. She cannot divide who she is to placate those who refuse to accept who she is.
And her marriage to a Jewish man who has Jewish children should be honored and celebrated, as should her being a step-parent, and her choice not to birth children.
Vice President Kamala Harris is an example of where America has been and where America is headed.
Americans should be embracing her mixed-race ancestry because it and she represents the best of who Americans and American can become.
And her honoring multiple religious faiths, traditions, and holidays should be admired and respectfully and appropriately emulated.
In our mixed sisters and brothers we can leave behind the hate-filled past of denial, embarrassment, and harm, and look forward to a future of inclusivity, learning about others, and celebrating the best of a multiplicity of cultures and traditions.
That, to me, would be a fitting real life American dream.
Copyright 2020 by Myron J. Clifton. All Rights Reserved.
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